Caveat: memes and mastodon

I haven’t really mentioned, on this here blog, the fact that over the last year I have become a consistent user of “social media” again. Unlike a decade ago, when I was quite active on facebook for a few years (and to a lesser extent, I was using the Korean social media ecosystem branded “Kakao”), this time, I’m using a social media thing called “Mastodon”. Mastodon is quite different in one important respect from the social media that most people use: it is not owned or controlled by a large, for-profit corporation. Mastodon has a similar feel to twitter (or also, facebook’s main feed, ca. 2008), but it’s “open source” and “non-profit” and “non-centralized”. That ends up being an important distinction. It has no advertising. It doesn’t manipulate what you see – you yourself completely control it – there’s no “algorithm” to struggle with.

I’m not posting this here to try to convert anyone. Everyone has their preferred social media spaces, and among my close family and friends, the readers of this here blog, that’s largely limited to that ubiquitous and amoral behemoth, facebook (which I abhor but remain engaged with in a mostly ancillary way). I have the option of “cross-posting” entries from this here blog to Mastodon, and I do so, not inevitably (I like the control) but anyway, more often than not. And on Mastodon I’ve done something I haven’t done elsewhere on social media (or the internet in general) – I’ve completely elided the long-maintained separation between my geofiction-hobby identity (aka “Luciano” aka “geofictician”) and my poem-writing-tree-photographing-Alaska-dwelling identity (aka “caveatdumptruck” aka this here blog).

If anyone is interested in exploring mastodon, they can scroll through my feed, here: If you’re interested in joining (making your own account on Mastodon), go here:

One thing that any social media is very good for is for finding amusing bits of humor and “memes” as the kids call them, these days.

I ran across this one on Mastodon, yesterday, that I rather liked.


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Caveat: Unguarded

At least paywalls are honest. Those “register to view” websites are creepy: you’re ceding “tracking rights.”

I’ve been a frequent reader of the Guardian website for several decades. I liked the way they settled into a “donate if you can” model, a la Wikipedia. I donated a few times over the years.

Recently they’ve introduced one of those “register to view” requirements. The Grauniad just lost a reader.

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Caveat: 10 years ago today, I was diagnosed with cancer

A photo of my diagnosis paper from the Korean hospital where I was being treated; it's all in Korean but it says I have cancer

I wrote about it on this blog at that time. I wrote:

The doctor said: “You have cancer.” Well. No ambiguity, there.

It was stage 3 cancer of the tongue, with possible metastasis in lymphs of the neck. The metastasis on the left side of my neck was confirmed after surgery, though pre-surgery, diagnosis had been more optimistic. Anyway, lymphs were removed, along with the tumor at the base of my tongue. My tongue was reconstructed with spare parts from other parts of my body – I have a weird bioengineered transhumanist tongue.

The statistics at the time of diagnosis was about a 65% survival rate. That later dropped to around 40% survival rate, due to the additional complications during and after my procedure in the hospital. I beat those odds. I had a 9 hour surgery. I was in the hospital for almost a month. I underwent 6 weeks of radiation a few months later, which I discovered is an amazing weight-loss program. Would recommend.

I’m still alive. Presumably, cancer-free. Either that, or I’m a ghost with a very convincing schtick.

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Caveat: 33MB Later…

Effective right now, this here blog thingy™is running on a fresh new server (see yesterday’s post about this ongoing process).

It was a rather fraught process – the data has become quite large (10k posts, right?). I had to extend the php script time-out limit on the server for processing incoming data from 30 seconds to 10 minutes (!). The blog extract file, not including any images at all, is 33MB text file! That’s huge for a text file. It crashes my laptop if I open it in a text editor.

Anyway, the new server should perform quite a bit faster. It’s got an up-to-date operating system and I installed a thing called memcached which is some software that helps php websites (like wordpress) perform much better. I’ve also got some new security features, which shouldn’t affect readers but will make my life as administrator a bit easier hopefully.

I worked hard to replicate the formatting and configuration from the previous server, and the appearance in most respects should be identical. If you (oh loyal blog-readers) run into problems or weird differences or broken stuff, please let me know.

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Caveat: This is my 10,000th blog post

Which is quite a few.

This blog was started in August, 2004. It only became “guaranteed daily” in late 2007. But it’s been at least daily since then, and it’s been at least twice daily (1 tree, 1 poem) since 2018. Given I’m on poem #24xx – that means around 24% of this blog is made up of poems.

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Caveat: A thousand words less

“A picture is worth a thousand words” – so goes the aphorism.

Today, I’m starting some necessary maintenance work on my “image server”. Note that on this here blog thingy, the pictures are hosted separately from the text. So the text of the blog will continue without problem, but there may be occasions for some users over the next several days when the pictures come up missing, or where your browser complains that links are broken. Please be patient. I’m moving the pictures to a new location and everything has to be redirected to point at the new location (this is what is called “DNS” in internet administration jargon).

Caveat: On Castine and its many tribulations

[NOTE: cross-posted from my other blog.]

Castine is an imaginary country that once existed on the imaginary planet I prefer to call Ogieff. In fact, the imaginary planet doesn’t have an official name – it’s hosted at, which all the users call, simply, “OGF”. That initialism leads to my preferred name for the planet – just sound it out.

There is a real place called Castine – it’s a small town in Maine, USA. This is not that Castine.


I joined OGF in 2014, and Castine appeared and began evolving some time in the year after that, I think – in 2015. I also became an admin on the website in that year.

During the period from 2015 to 2017, Castine became the locus of a kind of meta-proxy-war, where I used it as a stand-in for a never-ending argument I liked to have with my fellow OGF admins.

The issue in question was the rule about “verisimilitude”. I had long felt (and continue to feel) that OGF’s verisimilitude rule is a bad idea – it’s vague and impossible to enforce consistently. It has no objectivity. The principle is that mapping on the OGF world is supposed to be “realistic” in the sense that it eschews fantasy and sci-fi elements, and doesn’t contain cultural or cartographic artifacts that couldn’t reasonably exist in the real world. Hence, people who build 50 km bridges or tunnels are called out for violating verisimilitude, likewise more science-fictional elements like space elevators or fantasy elements like dens of dragons or nations of 1920’s-era talking sheep (all these examples really occurred at various times on the OGF planet).

Castine was (is) a borderline case of violating verisimilitude. Some users felt it violated the rule, others felt it was okay. My position was always something like: “since we can’t decide if this violates verisimilitude or not, but it’s really good mapping… c’cmon, people, let’s drop (or at least, fix) this stupid rule.

Of course, this was an unpopular stance. And in the long run, I lost the battle to remove or even alter the verisimilitude rule on Ogieff, and I made my peace with it.

One way that I made that peace with it, was to create my own, separate planet! In 2016, I started the planet Arhet as a kind of alternative project to Ogieff. By 2018, it had several active mappers and its own emerging community. The principle concept behind Arhet is to be a kind of “libertarian” reinterpretation of OGF. It has very few rules: no verisimilitude rule, no assigned territories, etc. And somewhat to my own surprise, it sorta kinda works. The key to it working, I reckon, is that unlike OGF, Arhet is not “open” to any and all comers. There’s an application process to join, and although I enforce almost no rules for the planet, I do stand firm that arguments or disagreements between users that escalate to my remit will simply result in immediate banning of all parties. That keeps everyone participating on best behavior, I guess.

The irony is that then, in 2021, I took over the hosting of the original So now I host a little federation of two imaginary planets, Ogieff and Arhet, which have substantially overlapping user communities but having quite different rule systems. And I’m okay about that. I inevitably yield to my fellow admins, whose hard work and dedication to the project I admire, when it comes to matters of rules and judgements on Ogieff. But off to the side, I run Arhet singularly, and I insist on its fundamentally anarchic state.

In around 2020, the creator of Castine (Ramasham) was banned from Ogieff – ultimately for violating another, different rule: the rule prohibiting direct upload of data copied from OSM. OSM is OpenStreetMap, which is a map of the Real World™ in the same technological vein as our two imaginary planets. This is the so-called “slippy map” paradigm, originally popularized by mapquest and perfected and dominated by google maps. OSM runs on and supports a whole complex ecosystem of software that is all open source, as a kind of alternative to google maps, and that’s why it’s easy (uh, “easy” in a financial sense, not “easy” in a technical sense) for us to use the same software to run OGF and Arhet.

Anyway, there is (and there has always been) a rule prohibiting copying OSM data into OGF. Ostensibly this is motivated by paranoia about copyright violation, but in fact copyright has little to do with it, in my own estimation – there are easy ways to avoid issues around copyright as long as you follow along with OSM’s “attribution and re-use” rules. The real motivation for the prohibition is legitimate, though: on OGF, we want to discourage mappers from spamming the planet’s map with cut-n-paste copies of real-world places. It’s low effort geofiction and discourages creativity.

That said, when I set up Arhet I decided to also not enforce OGF’s “no real-world (OSM) data” rule. And indeed I myself played around with cutting and pasting some data from OSM, including an ephemeral instance of country I called “Lingit Aani” (this is Tlingit language) – a copy of the islands of Southeast Alaska but minus any nearby continent, as an open-ocean archipelago. I later deleted this, but there are multiple copy-the-real-world geofiction projects going on in Arhet, these days, including clones of Sakhalin Island (Siberia) and Romania’s Bucharest, and at least two Polands – perhaps more.

I guess Castine’s creator, Ramasham, had been doing some copy-pasting of OSM data to increase the detail and complexity of Castine’s cartography. Notably, this airport is a modified cut-n-paste copy of one in the real world, with only the names of things altered. And so Ramasham was banned from OGF. Rules are rules, and that “no copy from OSM” rule is actually probably the most common reason for mappers to be banned from the site.

Now we come to February of this year (2022). The admin team at OGF, moving to “clean up” various abandoned territories around our (imaginary) globe, decided finally to delete Castine once and for all. And I had a moment of deep sadness and regret. Despite my having leveraged Castine back in 2016 as part of my proxy war with the other admins over the verisimilitude rule, in fact I really, really like Castine.

From a technical standpoint, Ramasham was at best a mediocre mapper. But the imaginary country is full of cartographic whimsy and playfulness, the naming is thorough and inventive and culturally intriguing, and the detail in some parts is quite incredible. I thought it was worth preserving.

So I considered: Ramasham’s ban from OGF was for violating the “No OSM data” rule; if there were any other issues with Castine, they were issues with the “verisimilitude” rule; so… hey – Arhet doesn’t have those rules!

The solution was obvious. I decided I’d move Castine to Arhet. And even more conveniently, the exact latitude and longitude of Castine’s old Ogieff location was open and unused on Arhet. I figured it should be quite easy to simply “cut-n-paste” the whole of Castine into Arhet.

Yikes! This turned out to be the far from the case – it was not easy. Not at all. Castine included almost 2 million distinct GIS objects: nodes, ways, relations. This was not trivial to simply cut, paste, and upload into the new site. And further, the data quality was quite poor, from a technical standpoint. Thousands of improperly stacked ways on shared nodes, hundreds of lazily-crafted or incomplete data relations, etc.

I have spent the last week in a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland nightmare of trying to rescue Castine and upload it to the Arhet planet. I think that as of this morning, that I have succeeded, but not before almost destroying the Arhet server altogether in the process.

Without going into a lot of detail, it seems that there were a couple of relations (a technical term in this case for a type of data object used in OSM GIS software) that were apparently so badly constructed that they broke the server’s database. Since I had to do a kind of trial-and-error search to finally identify these objects, it took a very long time. I’d upload some subset of the full Castine dataset, and watch to see if the database crashed or not. If it didn’t, fine, I’d try another set of data. If it crashed, I’d have to go back to the last backup of the server, restore it, and try again. I think I did a backup-restore cycle maybe 12 or 14 times over the last week on the Arhet server. It was painful, and tedious, and immensely frustrating.

The crash-provoking objects in question are puzzling. I still don’t understand why they crash the database. And given my difficulties in identifying them (and surviving them – see below), I probably won’t spend time, any time soon, trying to figure them out. They are “Giant Chessboards” – three of them. Interestingly, Castine also has other “Giant Chessboards” (e.g. here) that do not cause any kind of data problem. They are apparently implemented differently, in their details.

The problem was compounded yesterday, when, much to my shocked dismay, the server-level backup-restore functionality offered by my hosting provider, Linode – that I’d been so repeatedly abusing – suddenly and inexplicably failed to work.

So for a day (yesterday) the world was Arhetless. The server was down. I was in a panic because it seemed I’d have to fully rebuild the server from scratch. And it was only pure luck that I even had a copy of the map data, because I was still running a kludgey render engine (map drawing process) for Arhet on a different machine.

I wrangled with tech support at Linode, and they finally held my hand (or was it that they held my server’s hand?) through a successful if stressful restoration of the server’s image.

Let’s just say, these days Castine now has a quite colorful meta-history.

I reached out to the creator of Castine, sending an email to the address on record at OGF, announcing its restoration in Arhet. I would absolutely welcome and be pleased if that person would come back and take up work on the country, again – they won’t be constrained by the rules and regulations on Ogieff. Unfortunately I haven’t heard back. I speculate that there might be some bitterness about the whole business of having been first praised and then banned, back a few years ago.

The link to Castine-in-Arhet is here:

Please feel free to explore. I decided not to bother with adding extensive screenshots for this blog post – the point of having the Castine map hosted on the server is that you can explore easily directly on the website.

Happy mapping.

What I’m listening to right now.

Dawg Yawp, “Lost At Sea.”


Tk tk
Hey! Hey!

[Verse 1]
Lost at sea
Is where you'll find me
It's got everything I want
But nothing that I need

[Verse 2]
Does anybody feel
All this talk ain't real?
Does anybody see
That the truth is in the mystery?
Could it be sweet
Standing on my feet?

I don't know, but I'm gonna try
Thinkin' up ways not to wash up in alive
(Could it be sweet?)
Everybody's tellin' me it's not too hard
If you keep swimmin' it don't seem far
[Verse 3]
There's a place you can go
Where you'll never be alone
And you'll always be free
Lost at sea
Could it be sweet
Lost at sea?

I don't know how they're gonna find me
Now I'm lost at sea and there's no way to deny
(Could it be sweet?)
If I'm ever talkin' like I don't care
Look at me and smile, baby
Take me there


Caveat: Tree #1165

This tree was reaching for a dog.

Meanwhile, lately I’m not feeling comfortable with the accuracy of my weather widget, on the right hand column of this here blog.

picture[daily log: walking, 3.5km; dogwalking, 4km]

Caveat: Friday Blogroll

Blogs (and blog-like-objects) in my browser right now (in a few very broad categories).

Rationalist and adjacent

Philosophy, politics, language, culture

Technology, design


Caveat: epistemectomy

I just made up this word: epistemectomy – a procedure which removes knowledge from a person or information system.

I read strange things on the internet almost every day.

Earlier today, while Arthur was at the dentist, I found and began reading a web story (or, maybe, novella), on my phone. It’s about an object that functions as an “antimeme”. An “antimeme” is an idea (perhaps embedded in an object) that in its nature prevents people from being interested in it or remembering it. This opposes to the normal definition of “meme” – which is an idea that encourages people’s interest and recollection.

So unfortunately I can’t remember much about the story (okay, maybe that’s a joke).

Anyway, I recommend you can try to read it. It’s quite weird, though – just a warning. In fact, though, the story recalls certain features of certain secret societies that play difficult-to-define roles in some of my unfinished novels.

Here is the beginning of the story: We Need To Talk About Fifty-Five (part of the Antimemetics Division series).

Caveat: Friday Blogroll

Despite their supposedly being quite passé, I still read many, many blogs.

I really like those blogs where the authors periodically post “links” pages – they link out to various items of interest found all over the internet. The absolute master of this is Tyler Cowen, who does it every single day, without fail, on his Marginal Revolution blog: he will post 4-10 links to items of political, philosophical, economic or cultural interest. Another blogger who does this well is Scott Alexander, who posts a monthly links page on his Astral Codex Ten blog (successor to the Slatestarcodex blog) – his links are less frequent but more interesting, on average.

I have often felt somewhat jealous of this capacity to post links-of-interest this way, reliably – and I’ve thought, oh, I should do that, too. But I’ve not been sufficiently motivated to do so myself.

Mostly these “links” articles link to specific blog entries found out there on the internet, or news articles or academic papers and publications. The other day I had a kind of brainstorm, which was that rather than try to replicate this “links” summary style, I’d instead do a kind of periodic “blogroll”. “Blogroll” is a term of art in blogging that stands for that thing on side of a blog that lists other blogs of interest – this here blog of mine has one, but I’m really bad about updating my blogroll. In fact, I only do so once every few years, and over time, it ends up being just barely indicative of what I’m reading regularly.

So I thought, instead – what if my blogroll was a feature on the blog? That would force me to update it more regularly, and you’d see what I was reading. I always have 5-10 blogs open in my browser: so how about if I just publish that list, on a regular basis? That’d show what I was reading. I suppose over time it might get repetitive or boring – some blogs are almost always open (e.g. Marginal Revolution or Astral Codex Ten, mentioned above). Others are one-time shots. So, to prevent that, I think I’ll make a rule that I can only mention a given blog once. Then it would be a kind of master list of blogs I’ve checked out at least at some point in my career of online textual consumption.

So with that preamble, this is my first entry in my hoped-to-be-regular feature, my “Friday Blogroll”. We’ll see how that goes.

Blogs in my browser right now (in a few very broad categories):

“Rationalist” or “rationalist-adjacent” blogs
(by my own conception – not necessarily the classification the author would choose)

Tech or programming related blogs

Design or urbanism related blogs

Language or Linguistics related blogs


Caveat: 404

The code “404” is the message a webserver gives to a client (to your browser) when a resource (a specific webpage or URL) is “not found.” It’s a kind of error code.

Most web 404’s are pretty boring. This here blog thingy has the standard apache 404: here – it doesn’t even bother saying the number “404”, which actually bothers me a little bit but not enough to go try to fix it.

Some websites use their 404 page to post jokes of various kinds, or to say something vaguely amusing. Google’s 404: “That’s an error…. That’s all we know.”

One of my favorite 404’s is the Financial Times (of London) newspaper website: here. [UPDATE 2024-01-05: It seems this 404 page at the Financial Times is no longer amusing. It’s become quite boring.]

In other news, I had a dead battery this morning. An annoying circumstance, but I survived – it didn’t happen at the house, but rather after I’d gone to town and parked at a merchant while running an errand this morning. The car said, “404 – battery not found.”

We’ll see how it does tomorrow morning. The NAPA store here in town didn’t have the needed battery model in stock (of course if didn’t). So I’m carrying around one of those nifty battery-pack jump starter thingos, now.

picture[daily log: walking, 4.5km; retailing, 6hr]

Caveat: oblivious popularity

The single most-visited page in my blog this year is an obscure blog-post I made in August, 2008, about a Japanese pop song I discovered by seeing its name on the screen of a stranger’s cellphone on the Seoul subway.

That’s weird. Such are the vagaries of the google search engine.

So here is the winner in the 2021 popularity sweepstakes. I’ve cleaned up the page a bit and added a link to the actual song, since I suspect most googlers are arriving on the page hoping to find the song.

Caveat: 오블리비어스.

Caveat: the internet, explained avant-le-lettre

The style will often be strange, incorrect, overburdened, and loose, and almost always strong and bold. Writers will be more anxious to work quickly than to perfect details. Short works will be commoner than long books, wit than erudition, imagination than depth. There will be a rude and untutored vigor of thought with great variety and singular fecundity. Authors will strive to astonish more than to please, and to stir passions rather than to charm taste. – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)


Caveat: On staying up late babysitting cantankerous webservers…

Wednesday night has become “server maintenance night” for my website hosting project. With more than 200 active users, there has to be a fixed time that is announced in advance for server updates, changes, tests and reboots. We have settled on 0400 Thursdays UTC, which comes down to 8 PM Alaska Daylight Time (next week that’ll be 7 PM Alaska Standard Time).

Last night what was hoped to be just a regular backup and reboot of the main server, and a “refresh” of the carto (map rendering i.e. map-picture-drawing) server turned into an all-night odyssey, as I struggled with a bizarre failure on the render server that pushed me to having to restore the whole server from the previous night’s automated backup. I still don’t know what went wrong – the render program refused to restart after the manual reboot which was part of the render server “refresh.” As is so often the case with these Linuxy-sysadmin problems, I suspect something went awry with file permissions.

Anyway, it was one of those proverbial IT adventures, and with my normally very fixed, habitual sleep times, I made and drank some coffee late in the night in order to be able to stay awake to do what needed to be done, which further messed up my sleep when I finally was able to go to sleep. So now I’m… messed up, sleepwise.

There’s a less personal and more upbeat mention of the event, posted to my other blog, here, which was also cross-posted to the “User Diaries” on the OpenGeofiction server, here.

Caveat: Just going on record, here…

pictureI want to record this, so that at some point in the future (years hence) I can see if I was right or not.

Facebook’s recent announcement of its corporate name-change to “Meta” – its shift to Zuckerberg’s (next) fantasy – is Facebook’s “AOL-buys-out-TimeWarner” moment. Which is to say, it’s the apex before the fall. I would say I’m not super confident about this. Let’s say… 65% or so. Not confident enough to start shorting Facebook shares – I couldn’t afford the risk.

Caveat: Cloudflare

I have configured a new service for my blog, this here website (i.e.

Really, I’m testing it, curious as to whether it works. Cloudfare is a service that protects websites from certain types of hacking attacks (typically, what are called DDoS attacks), and also helps improve delivery of webpages all over the world by maintaining a network of caching servers of a sort. I want to know how it works, before perhaps trying it out on the mapping website I am now hosting – I have the unconfirmed suspicion that the mapping site, with several hundred users in 30 countries, is more vulnerable to this type of attack than many other websites, smaller or larger – it’s in a kind of “sweet spot” of vulnerability.

So I thought to use this blog as a low-traffic place to do an experiment with it.

For you, the loyal blog-reader, the change should be utterly transparent. Which is to say, if it’s working correctly, you should see no difference. And if it’s not working correctly, probably you won’t see this at all – at least not in a timely manner! And I’d have to fix it, then, reverting back to the status quo ante.

Anyway, there you have. Caveatdumptruck, cloudflared.

Caveat: FORTRAN to the 2020’s and beyond

I associate the FORTRAN computer programming language with the 1980’s. It was already looking a bit long in the tooth when Michelle took a course on it at Univ of Minnesota in the mid 1990’s (and where I dipped my hand in it, because… well, Michelle and I did a lot of things together). It was still being used for business and scientific applications.

Apparently some guy has written a modern website controller in FORTRAN. So he can run his website. That’s interesting.

Caveat: Unscheduled Maintenance

Today has been stressful. But stress “of my own creation,” for a change – since it has been about this volunteer systems administrator role I’ve taken on for this new version of the old website.

The website crashed this morning. In a way where I didn’t understand what was going on, where we had to take it offline and study the problem with limited resources, where we had to deal with all the customers (users – these are not paying customers, it’s a free site) who wanted to know what was going on.

We made progress on diagnosing the problem, but the site is still offline. Tomorrow I’ll work on trying to get it back up and available again.



Caveat: OGF Live

[This is cross-posted from my other blog.]

The OGFMirror became, over the weekend.

This is huge news.

So far the site is working okay. Not great, just okay. There are some issues.

  • The ActionController::InvalidAuthenticityToken is frequent and painful, for users.
  • Possibly related to the above – users keep getting forcibly logged out, over and and over.
  • The render is still playing catchup on the whole world map, and seems to be lagging around 2 hours for high zooms.
  • Incoming email is completely broken – possibly due to errors in the DNS tables at the registrar (and we’re waiting on the old host to fix this)
  • Outgoing email is problematic for some substantial portion of users due to over-aggressive anti-spam efforts by several major email providers, including Apple (icloud) and Microsoft (hotmail, outlook, live). I’m not even sure how to begin fixing this. I’ve implemented DKIM, but this also relies on fixing DNS errors which are not currently being fixed, and that might help. I’ve looked into a blacklisting of my email server by and discovered it is due to my email server sharing the same IP range with a Nigerian Prince or somesuch in the server farm where it lives.

Work continues. Meanwhile, to all the users of OGF: “Happy mapping!”

Caveat: Depseudonymized

I have always operated under a pseudonym on my geofiction websites. But as of today, as I become the official host of the main site,, I had to depseudonymize myself – because a person hosting a website on a server with many users in countries all over the world has a sort of obligation toward transparency. This isn’t precisely a legal requirement – though who knows, with so many different jurisdictions involved. But it feels like at the least a sort of ethical requirement. was created in Germany by a guy named Thilo in 2012. I joined the site in early 2014, and served for many years as a volunteer administrator. Recently, Thilo has become disillusioned (or otherly-illusioned) and no longer wanted to maintain the site. But with hundreds of active users, it seemed unkind to shut the thing down. So I have taken it over, along with some colleagues, also fellow volunteer administrators. Effective today, the site is hosted on a couple of my servers down in California, and I’m the lead technical support.

This is not about making money, exactly. Though I expect some donations to help me at least break even on the rent for the servers.

Here is a screenshot of the “contact” page from the site – showing me depseudonymized for my fellow geoficticians.



Caveat: Local Bus Odyssey Across Britain

Mostly I don’t like it when people attempt “essays” or long-form journalism on twitter. It just doesn’t work, jumping from short little message to short little message. It’s a very constrained medium to develop any kind of narrative. But this morning I ran across what I felt was very good use of the medium.

Some guy in Britain decided to see how far he could go in 24 hours traveling by only city / local buses. No coaches, no trains, no anything but local bus routes. He started at Charing Cross, in the center of London, at 3 AM, and made his way, local bus by local bus, up the Island of Great Britain, tweeting all the way. Mostly it reads as a kind of “city and town bus stations of England” travelogue. I’m waiting for the coffee-table book.

He made it as far as Morecambe (a beach town just outside Lancaster) in the middle of the following night. The people following the story had been hoping he’d make it to Scotland – but he fell quite a ways short of that.



Caveat: OGFMirror

[The below is cross-posted from my other blog.]

I’m super bad about posting to this blog. That’s partly because I feel a strong desire to report some actual, positive progress, which I haven’t felt enabled to do.

I have been very busy with HRATE technicalities. I am building – very, very slowly – a “mirror” for (OGF). I think if this is successful, then the owner of that site, who has expressed interest in “letting go” of having to continue to maintain it, will allow the mirror to take over for the site and a transition to a new hosting environment will be complete.

Someday, I intend to write up, in elaborate, technical detail, this process of setting up a mirror. But in broad outlines, here is what it involves (has involved, will involve).

  • Build a new Ubuntu 20.04 LTS server. This leads to lots of incompatibilities farther down the line, because the existing OGF server is an older version. Install the basics – apache, postgresql, etc.
  • Install an OSM rails port on the server.
  • Migrate the OGF data to this server. This was very, very hard – because the OGF data (in either .osm.pbf format, or in pg_dump format) proved to contain inconsistencies (data corruption). Some missing current nodes and ways had to be restored manually (text-editing .osm = .xml files). This ended up a 2-weeks-long process.
  • Set up incoming replication from the source apidb (OGF) to the new mirror (currently being called ogfdev).
  • Set up outgoing replication for the new ogfdev instance (to drive render, overpass, etc)
  • Set up a new primary render. This had some sub-parts.
    • coastlines. This proved very difficult, because as far as I can figure out, the osmcoastline tool used to create the coastline shapefiles is broken on Ubuntu 20.04. An older version must be used. My current workaround: I’m actually running coastlines on an older server. I import a coastline-containing pbf file to the older server, run the osmcoastline tool, and post the shapefiles for consumption on the render server.
    • I made a decision to run the renders on a different server than the apidb. I think this might involve a bit more expense, short term, but it makes the whole set of processes more scalable, long term. My experience with Arhet is that the render requires scaling sooner / more frequently than the apidb, as the user base grows. Installing the render software (mod_tile and “renderd”) proved difficult. It turns out that there are some lacunae and downright incorrect steps in the documented installation sequences on github.
    • Set up incoming replication from the ogfdev database to the render database.
    • There are substantial differences in recent versions of the openstreetmap-carto style – specifically, the special shapefiles are no longer stored in as datafiles in data folder in the render directory. Instead, the shapefiles are loaded to the database. Because non-standard shapefiles are used, this means rewriting the load procedures (python scripts) – the standard approach is to just grab the files for “Earth” (because who would run osm for some other planet?!). So that file-grabbing is hard-coded in the procedure.
  • Set up a new topo render. The topo render was shut down on OGF, so this will be the only working version. Unfortunately, I ran into a similar problem with some of the topo pre-processing as I ran into with osmcoastline, above. I suspect for the same reason – something in one of the dependencies they both have. So the topo pre-processing (turning the .hgt files into a contour database) is also being run on a separate, Ubuntu 18.04 server (just like the coastlines).
  • Set up appropriate changes and customizations for the front-facing rails port (osm website). This involves importing user data (done) but also user diaries (not done). These require ad hoc SQL coding that give me flashbacks to my job as DBA in the 2000’s. Another unfinished piece – internationalization. The current ogfmirror website looks okay, but only in English. Switch to another language, and it all reverts to OSM boilerplate. Why is internationalization done so badly on production software of this kind? I see no easy solution except manually editing each language’s .yml file in turn (OSM has a 100+ languages). Or building my own damn application to achieve that result.
  • Set up overpass and overpass-turbo. Overpass installs relatively painlessly, but I’m having trouble getting incoming replication to work correctly. overpass-turbo was quite difficult – the current version on github is flat-out broken, and so an older version (commit) must be compiled and installed. Further, the compilation and configuration process overwrites some of the parameters files, so the parameters files have to be modified after running the first steps of configuration, but before the last part. This is the step I am on right now.
  • Set up nominatim? – nice to have, but not urgent. Anyway nominatim doesn’t work on the existing OGF website
  • Implement some of the custom tools that are available on the OGF website: the “scale helper,” the “coastline helper,”…
  • What else? This is a work in progress…

So I’ve been busy. Here is a link to the site. Bear in mind, if you are reading this in the future, the link may not show you what I’m currently writing about, but rather some future iteration of it.

I’m still working on some of those last steps. Open to hearing what else needs to be done.

What I’m listening to right now.

K-os, “Hallelujah.”

Caveat: with the psychotic handmaiden or her florence nightingale

I often receive spam comments on my blog. Mostly I simply delete them. Sometimes, though, they seem to constitute a kind of “found poetry.” Clearly the text below is generated by one of the many text-generating engines that now exist, “trained on” data from recent news and such. It’s nonsense, but with embedded fragments weirdly compelling, unexpected juxtapositions of words, perhaps.

A month ago, when a 37-year-old unimpassioned of a Singapore boarding secondary consequential teach in charge of people with mentally miserable disorders was diagnosed with a coronavirus, the authority of the structuring did not pull together a panic. Fascinating into account the specifics of the settlement, all its shillelagh and most of the fine haleness inhabitants were vaccinated against Covid-19 as being at danger subvene in February-March. However, just in shield, the boarding devotees was closed to secure quarantine, and all employees, patients and other people who recently communicated with the psychotic handmaiden or her florence nightingale were quarantined and began to be regularly tested. In excess of the next week, the virus was detected in three dozen people, including the 30-year-old sister from the libretto persist from the Philippines, as genially as four other employees of the boarding midriff group and 26 of its changeless residents. Most of those infected were fully vaccinated against Covid-19… You can imply to another article on this point at this vinculum. There’s something to it. Thank you so much for your help on this issue. I didn’t know that..


Caveat: So Much Blog

I have been doing some maintenance work on my blog, preliminary to trying to get it moved over to my other, newer server, so I can finally shut this older one down. That will save me some money, and the various websites and programs running on my servers will be more rationally distributed.
I downloaded a “text file” version of my blog (a kind of backup file) which contains everything ever written here, but not the pictures. And I had a strange thought. The file is 29 MB. That’s really not a very big file, but it’s fairly standard to say that 1MB of text is approximately 500 pages. So. If I were to print my blog out in this backup format, in its entirety, right now, that would come out to… 500 x 29 = 14500 pages. Actually, a lot of the text in the text file is “metadata” and various formatting information (e.g. HTML). So maybe only 25% of that figure, 14500/4, is actual writing. That still comes to 3625 pages. And if the pictures were printed too… I believe there are about 2000 pictures embedded in this blog. They’d each need a page, right? Or say, half a page. So add 1000 to that figure. That comes to 4625 pages. Very approximate. But that’s a very fat book.

Did I really write that much?

UPDATE 2021-05-31-16:00 – This blog is now on a new, better server. This was the last piece in “cleaning house” on my broken-down restored-from-backup server that crashed in February. So now I can shut that one down and no longer be billed for it. Yay. The structure of the site and its behavior should be identical except for the word “blog” being inserted in front of each and every address: e.g. is now

Caveat: raggedsign

Contrary to superficial appearances on this here blog, I’ve not been a layabout, in recent weeks. I’ve been quite productive in the sphere of website building and administrative work.
This spurt of productivity was impelled by a request from the owners of the gift shop, where I work part-time. They wanted me to build them an improved website for their “other business” – a cabin rental business for tourists in Klawock.
That website is now “live” and running well, hosted on one of my servers – same as this blog and all my other various web projects. You can visit that website:
This work has led to a whole host of ancillary projects, as I try to clean up and update my several servers. I felt that if I was actually going to start being paid for what has so long been a hobby, I should get my proverbial ducks in a row.
By far the most difficult thing I’ve done wasn’t building that new website, but rather it was rebuilding, from the bottom up (i.e. from bare-bones, brand new “blank” server) my “map server,” which I’ve mentioned many times here. This has been necessary since my giant server crash a few months ago, and having the old server running, with all its problems and wasted space, was very inefficient. By doing this, I could free up a lot of space for new projects without shelling out for another new server. It was quite a job, and I’m proud of the outcome, though it’s the least glamorous, since in fact the objective was to get it looking and behaving exactly as the old map server. So if you go to my map server, at its new address, you’ll see something exactly the same as my old map server (which I have now shut down). The new map server is:
Another difficult thing I accomplished is that I have finally built my own email server – after many years of wanting to. Nothing will change as far as reaching out to me. I haven’t “killed” any of my existing email addresses, and my gmail one remains my “primary.” But having my own email server simplifies website administration and hosting substantially – a website server produces a number of automated, administrative emails, in the vein of responses to “Lost your password?” queries or “Server backup job completed at 07:00 AKDT”.  It is actually pretty hard to get such emails to go out correctly when you don’t control your own email host. So I built one. I placed it on one of my many domains:
As a side note, therefore, if anyone who knows me wants a customized email address, I now have the ability to provide that. The email server includes a “webmail” interface, so if you really wanted to, and trusted me enough, you could throw away your gmail account and be (or any of my other domains, or your own if you want to buy one).
I also set up a blog for a neighbor and good friend of Arthur’s, Jeff. He hasn’t done much with it, but I’m going to be providing him with some orientation so he can get his blog started:
Having done all that, and thinking about the fact that I am earning money from a few of these web programming adventures (though not at all breaking even, yet), I decided it was time to declare my web design and hosting “business” in some kind of official way. So I built yet another website, which is my “business” – such as as stands. Currently the income is less than the cost of the servers I have. Not to mention the programming time is, so far, “free.” I’m doing it as a hobby, I guess, but if I’m going to be making some money with it, I might as well try to look professional.
That new website: I would welcome feedback on appearance and text – it’s quite rudimentary and “first draft,” right now.
“raggedsign” is a name I came up with in around 2001 or 2002, as a kind of “brand name” for my efforts at learning website design and web programming. It went into extended dormancy during my decade in Korea and I only recently decided to resume using it for the same, original purpose. I have also used the brand-name “general semiotics” for my computer-related work, specifically my year and a bit as an independent “database design consultant” in 2006-07. I still own that domain, too, and for now I’ve redirected to the raggedsign site.
My next project is to provide a new “Topo layer” for the site where I am still active, bearing an informal “administrator emeritus” title. The previous “Topo layer” for that site was deactivated due to performance issues, but I have always been one of its biggest users and fans. So rather than complain to the other admin people on that site about the now-missing topo layer, I thought I’ll take on hosting one, myself – if I can. There are some technical hurdles to be overcome. But I think I’ll manage it.

Caveat: Font Fail

[The below is cross-posted from my very sparsely-populated other blog.]
I have taken some steps to migrate one of my major geofictions – The Ardisphere – from OGF to my self-hosted OGFish clone, Arhet. The reason for this is that OGF seems increasingly rudderless and destined to eventually crash and burn, and I am emulating the proverbial rat on the sinking ship. I still hugely value the community there. But the backups have become unreliable, the topo layer (of which I was one of the main and most expert users) has been indefinitely disabled, and conceptual space for innovation remains unavailable.
One small problem that I’ve run up against in migrating The Ardisphere to Arhet is that I discovered that Korean characters were not being supported correctly by the main Arhet map render, called arhet-carto. This is a problem because the Ardisphere is a multilingual polity, and Korean (dubbed Gohangukian) is one of the major languages in use, second only to the country’s lingua-franca, Spanish (dubbed Castellanese). I spent nearly two days trying to repair this Korean font problem. I think I have been successful. I had to manually re-install the Google noto set of fonts – noto is notorious (get it?) for being the most exhaustive font collection freely available. I don’t get why the original install failed to get everything – I suspect it’s an Ubuntu (linux) package maintenance problem, rather than anything directly related to the render engine (called renderd, and discussed in other, long-ago entries on this sparsely-edited blog).
Here (below) are before-and-after screenshot details of a specific city name that showed the problem: Villa Constitución (헌법시) is the capital and largest city in The Ardisphere. Ignore the weird border-artifacts behind the name on these map fragments – the city is in limbo, right now, as I was re-creating it and it got stuck in an unfinished state.
Before – you can see the Korean writing (hangul) is “scattered”:
After – now the hangul is properly-composited:
You can see The Ardisphere on Arhet here – and note that within the Arhet webpage you can switch layers to OGF and see it there too. Same country, different planets!
What I’m listening to right now.

Attack Attack! “Brachyura Bombshell”.

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